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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Communism's victims

The New York Times has published an article by Frank Dikotter, professor at the University of Hong Kong, on the carnage visited on the people of China by Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward":
The worst catastrophe in China’s history, and one of the worst anywhere, was the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962, and to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the “Great Leap Forward” that Mao Zedong launched in 1958.

To this day, the party attempts to cover up the disaster, usually by blaming the weather. Yet detailed records of the horror exist in the party’s own national and local archives.


In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.
Read the whole article for the excruciating details.

Glen Reynolds at Instapundit has an interesting roundup of responses to the NYT article. Reynolds comments:
Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.

Remember that next time you see some naive socialist demonstrator sporting a Mao t-shirt & throwing bricks through a Starbucks window.

UPDATE: For commenter Brian Busby - here are two pictures from last summer's riot at the G20 summit in Toronto, which I found after a quick Google search. You could have Googled it yourself, you know.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Letter from Toronto

I live in a rural area with no public transit system. None. You can't even take a cab out here; we depend exclusively on our huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks and carbon-spewing SUVs to get around. So, it's been with some amusement that I've followed Toronto's new mayor Rob Ford's first few days in office. I'm especially amused by the crib death of the city's elaborate and expensive Transit City project which aims to put dedicated streetcar lanes on major thoroughfares like Sheppard and Eglinton. I wondered why the citizens of Canada's World Class City were so attached to streetcars over the more proletarian buses that the rest of the province rides every day. I thought I'd better ask someone who lives in downtown Toronto and who doesn't own a car to explain it to me. So, I fired of an email to my friend and fellow blogger EMG, who writes at Edward Michael George. Here's our correspondence:
Dear EMG:

You live near the St Clair streetcar line that buggered up the entire neighbourhood for years and ran millions of dollars over budget. Was it worth it?

Can you explain to me what the big friggin' deal is about streetcars in Toronto? Transit City proposes to tear up major traffic arteries like Sheppard & Eglinton, disrupt commerce and traffic for God knows how long to replace two lanes of cars with expensive dedicated streetcar lines. Is this an improvement over regular buses that share the street with cars? Surely it can't be cheaper to build all these Transit City "LRT" routes than to just put more buses on the streets?

Is riding a regular bus such a hellish experience for the poor straphangers, and conversely is a streetcar such a quantum leap in cost, efficiency and comfort? I just don't get it. Why can't you urban elites just take the bus?

Can you explain this mystery to us poor hicks out in the country?


EMG replied:
Dear Poor Hick Out in the Country,

I don't normally condescend to speak to the turnip 'n' dirt people--in your case I'll make the exception. Buses simply aren't good enough for us. Buses are for you and all the other thick-fingered, dirty-eared, cannon-fodder types of your village. A place where, I suspect, everyone is related (and not distantly) to one another; a place that I'm vaguely familiar with as once I drove through it on my way to a fashionable vineyard and spa run by the most delightful homosexual couple (recently wed).

Don't streetcars remind you of metropolitan San Francisco? (Think Rice-A-Roni if this isn't ringing any bells for you ... Oh! Ringing any bells! A kind of a pun!) That's the sort of place I want to live in. And subways? New York City, surely. Though I'll admit that I like to stir the pot a bit with my bien pensant chums by referring to it contrarian-ly as "the tube." Cheeky! LOL.

Perhaps you are wondering how we pay for it all? A special talent that separates us cosmopolites from you potato proles: we've discovered huge reservoirs of cash way up our shiny white butts. A seemingly endless supply. And there's any amount of other useful things up there too. This reply for instance.

At an imponderable distance,

An urban elitist

I responded:
Dear EMG:

I expected that it was one of those "we're a World Class City" issues. Toronto is a World Class City; World Class Cities have "light rail" transit; ergo Toronto must have streetcars. It's a Richard Florida creative class thing - the creative class likes streetcars, and if Toronto wants to attract the creative class, it must have streetcars. Ditto for Gay Pride parades, a favourite of the creative class, which also squeeze government subsidies out of the hicks. I expect that Dalton McGuinty will soon use the same argument to announce tax breaks for Toronto's fair-trade coffee shops, organic arugula-mongers and sustainable solar-powered yoga parlours.

Thanks for enlightening me.


There you have it, folks - Transit City explained. Go to it, Mayor Ford.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Does the Toronto Star have editors anymore?

I was in a coffee shop today with nothing to read, so I absent-mindedly picked up a copy of today's Toronto Star that someone had left behind. It made me want to take a shower afterwards.

Case in point - the appalling Heather Mallick. How this woman has found a successful career as a writer defies explanation. She had two articles in today's Star - the first was an obituary of Elizabeth Edwards. We are treated to salacious details about her husband John, including this tidbit from his career as a trial lawyer:
“Help, my stomach hurts,” a five-year-old North Carolina girl named Valerie called out to her mother as she sat on a swimming pool drain cover that a company named Sta-Rite knew would be improperly installed. She was feeling her intestines being sucked out. John won lifetime care for that girl, and rightly so.
Good God, did we need to know that grotesque detail in an obituary of his wife? Of course no quality obituary of Ms Edwards would be complete without a graphic description of her husband's affair with Rielle Hunter while she was fighting breast cancer:
In 2004, he ran as vice-president on the John Kerry ticket (George W. Bush won), Elizabeth got the breast cancer that would kill her, John ran again in 2007 while sleeping with a crazy, rapacious woman named Lisa Druck, a.k.a. Rielle Hunter, who filmed him performing oral sex on her, and after she had her unfortunate baby he paid her off, for which he may go to jail. In the meantime, Elizabeth was herself excoriated along the lines of, “Elizabeth Edwards not as nice as thought.” It sounds like an Onion headline.
Yuck. Poor Elizabeth - she deserved better than this from Canada's biggest daily.

Later in the same issue, Mallick writes an opinion piece on Julian Assange & the Wikileaks scandal. The tortured sentences she composes are so long & full of gear-shifts that I lost track of what she was talking about by the time I arrived, exhausted, at the finish:
As WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange is jailed in Britain on weirdly convenient rape charges and denied bail lest he flee the charges of WikiLeaking he does not in fact face though every government security service is gunning for it—lo, he hath made truthful information available unto citizens of the planet—the scum is rising.

Here's another gem, which somehow works a reference to JFK's assassination & Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin into the discussion:
I speak as a person who has still not recovered from the Daily Mail last week publishing online huge clear detailed photos from the littered rough pine interior of Lee Harvey Oswald’s empty coffin. I stared at the small oblong space where the American Dream went to die—how ironic that the death cavity should be so shabby—and was overturned by sadness.

But I’m not out to shut down the paper for publishing it. I’m not Amazon, Visa, Mastercard or PayPal—which have targeted WikiLeaks out of venom or cowardice—or even an irate subscriber. It’s my job as a writer to look at the photos and my duty as an adult.

Americans don’t care. You can go to the former School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas, and take pretend aim at JFK’s head, you can rent a floor of the building for your wedding reception, it’s all clean fun to them.
All this is bad enough, but Mallick holds herself to a higher standard. She's the self-proclaimed living embodiment of journalistic standards:
I recently turned down an offer to appear on a TVO panel to talk about the trial of Col. Russell Williams because the producer, the person responsible for mapping out the show, told me she hadn’t read the stories in the Star. She found the plea hearing gross and the news reports too icky for her sensibilities. “As a journalist,” she felt she didn’t need to know. She actually emailed me that.

I was embarrassed for her and politely declined to appear, me and my nauseating newsgathering. Then I banged my head hard on my desk until the pain went away.
Bang away, Heather.